What makes a winery stand out against its competitors? In order to be unique and successful, your winery should aim to provide both exceptional service and tailored hospitality. As Bobby Stuckey, Master Sommelier puts it, "Service is what you do to somebody. Hospitality is how you make someone feel."
To make your guests feel like they belong in your wine club and at your winery, you'll need top-tier wine club management, dedicated staff members, and the right technology at your disposal. Combining your best people and tools will enable you to better create a personalized experience for every guest that visits your winery — ultimately making your wine club more successful.
Where to begin? We spoke to Jess Zander, General Manager of Fidelitas Wines in Washington, where she oversees two tasting rooms and a healthy wine club to get her top customer service tips. Here's what she had to say.
For wineries looking to truly personalize their customer experience, you'll need a dedicated team. It is important to remember you are delivering a luxury product: wine clubs aren't a necessary staple for the average person! Therefore, in order to continue driving demand, personalized service becomes an expectation in the package deal. This level of exceptional service and hospitality requires time and focus to interact with members and customers on a deeper level. When you have a full-time employee or team dedicated to customer requests and wine club management, you will be able to better serve your customers.
If you are still trying to accomplish three jobs at once, while also responding to customer communications and requests in a timely manner, things will start falling through the cracks. To improve wine club management, relying on a dedicated employee who can take customer calls without them needing to leave a message, or respond to customer emails in the same day will enable your winery to provide the unparalleled, personal experience your customers are looking for. Your wine club members want to be heard and seen. Forgetting their requests, their preferences and even their personal details will lower your standard of service and hospitality.
The same is true in the tasting room. An understaffed room will have your employees running around, filling orders and pouring wine without the time to converse with each guest and develop a deeper connection. Adequately staffing your tasting room will enable each employee the time and space to interact with your guests and remember their preferences for next time. Your staff will be able to learn about about your customers and get to know their wine preferences so that next time that guest comes in, your team can ask how their dogs are doing and remember to avoid pouring that one Merlot they hated.
Extend this personal communication to online channels. Your internet presence can be a perfect way to continue engaging with your guests and offer them a platform to engage reciprocally. Your guests want to imagine your winery to be an oasis they escape to. Part of promoting your brand requires you to also maintain this desired image. You can use social media, email or your website to promote the idea that the winery lifestyle is always waiting for your guests at your winery. Post idyllic photos to promote new releases, events or promotions. This outreach will also enable your guests to engage — even when they are far away — to continue building a relationship.
Emails with calls to action can help you get a pulse on members you haven't interacted with in a while. Ask how they're enjoying their membership so far, or what you could do to improve their experience. Those guests who feel compelled to engage and respond will have the opportunity to do so, which is important. However, if you choose to communicate this way, it is even more important you have the resources to then follow up in a timely manner. Asking for customer engagement and then dropping the ball on your end will break trust with your customers and negatively impact your image in their eyes.
Surveys are another easy way to engage with your guests. But be cognizant about the questions you choose to ask, as inviting open feedback can become a slippery slope. When you solicit opinions and ideas, the customer will likely expect you take their feedback to heart and make improvements at your winery accordingly. While you may have good intentions in asking, open-endedly, what your guests would like to see more of at your winery, their responses might not always be feasible or a good fit for your brand. You can't simply take on event ideas that are out of your budget or off-brand, for example. You'll then be put in the awkward position of either ignoring or denying this request. Therefore, use surveys judiciously and with clear intentions, and avoid totally open-ended questions, if possible.
One of the most impactful way to personalize your guests' experience is to enable them to customize their wine club shipments. The top reason wine club members churn is that they don't like the wine they receive. Provide them the ability to customize their order every time, and you can avoid that complaint altogether. Offering club customization also aids in conversion: Silicon Valley Bank found that wine clubs that offer members a choice convert at a 50% higher rate than those that don't.
However, handling hundreds of different club member orders can be extremely difficult to manage without the right technology at your disposal. Wine club software can automate the experience for your guests and aid you in the process. Before each ordering period, you can automatically send out email reminders and prompt your customers to choose the wines they'd like to receive. Your members will appreciate the opportunity to select their wines - and those who prefer to take the standard selection can do that, too. Make sure your tasting room staff also has access to this information. Next time a member visits, you'll be able to ask how they enjoyed their last shipment, or know they always steer away from Chardonnay or Zinfandel.
In closing, a word of caution: while personalizing your customer experience is a tested and proven way to prevent churn and to build your brand loyalty, you need to focus on what is within your reach. You can't personalize every aspect of your business for your guests' needs. It isn't efficient or sustainable to meet every customer request. For example, you shouldn't host an event that is out of your budget or bill your customer on the second Tuesday of every month if it doesn't work for your business.
Don't get carried away, but do focus on the most impactful ways you can personalize your customers' experience to take your wine club to the next level. Use robust technology to enable customized purchases, automate email sends and record customer data. Invest in staff to create bandwidth in order to focus on customer engagement and feedback, and give your employees the resources to foster stronger relationships between your winery and its biggest supporters.